The G-4 visa category is something most people haven’t even heard of or ever thought about. Only a very small number of people in committed, same-sex relationships with people working in diplomatic positions hold G-4 visas. In October, the Trump Administration changed the eligibility rules, requiring that partners either marry by December 31, 2018 or leave the U.S.
The G-4 “mandate to marry” change sends a powerful policy message to the greater LGBTQ community. It certainly does not acknowledge the persecution couples would face in their home countries.
What is a G-4 Visa?
It is a “family-based” visa that permitted same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats or employees of certain international organizations, to accompany them to the U.S.
Foreign staff members who work at the United Nations, the World Bank, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and others, are able to have their family members and domestic partners join them in the United States while they are living and working in the U.S. The family members and domestic partners receive what is known as a “derivative” visa based on the family relationship to a person in diplomatic service.
The Department of state has not issued G-4 visas for opposite-sex domestic partners because they can openly marry in their home countries. However, opposite-sex couples face obstacles and legal restrictions to marrying in their home countries, that same-sex couples do not. In fact, many countries still prohibit same-sex marriage, making it impossible for couples in committed relationships to fulfill the mandate. The message is either get married or get out.
Samantha Power, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations tweeted that the policy is “needlessly cruel & bigoted.” She notes that only 12% of UN member states allow same-sex marriage.
When is the Deadline?
Same-sex domestic partners who have a G-4 visa, have already gone through an “accreditation” process (of their relationship) before having received a G-4 visa. Current visa holders must immediately submit proof of marriage by December 31, 2018, or be prepared to leave the U.S. within 30 days. The only other alternative is to apply for a change to a different non-immigrant status and provide proof that you’ve filed the application with USCIS.
New applicants, or those in the process of applying for the visa, now must provide proof of marriage upon application for the G-4 visa. Additionally, the spouse and his or her United-Nations-official spouse must live together in the same home on a regular and usual basis.
What if Your Country Does Not Allow Same-Sex Marriage?
This is a real concern. Only a handful of the United Nations’ 193 member-states allow same-sex marriage. The State Department has said that it will work with couples from countries where same-sex marriage is banned. It may also be possible that the state of the couple’s residence or the District of Columbia will agree to perform the marriage and a marriage of two foreign nationals in the United States would be valid for this purpose.
Learn About Your Immigration Options if You Are in a Same-Sex Relationship
I have helped many same-sex couples successfully apply for immigration benefits based on their marriages to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. The USCIS will recognize your legal marriage for immigration purposes. Contact me at 612-805-8626 for experienced immigration assistance.